why 3G is basically useless now?

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I’ve noticed among myself and my friends that the 3G technology doesn’t work as well as it used to, or not at all. When I say not at all, i mean if our phones drop from 4G to 3G there will be little to no service available. Phone isn’t connected to the interwebs.

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More physical assets and infrastructures are being adjusted to 4g and 5g now, which leaves very limited resources left to handle 3g signals and data. This slows any 3g applications down immensely to the point of non- function.

There is only so much spectrum. The usable lifetime of a phone is maybe 3 years. All phones made in the last 5 or 6 years have been at least 4G compatible. There aren’t many 3G only phones left out there.

FYI, if you are using a really old phone, be aware that there haven’t been security updates available for your phone for years.

Fewer towers are providing it and everything is using more data. Even basic webpages run code that is far too advanced for 3g to load quickly/properly.

Your phone drops to 3G when there is no 4G reception. So 3G will only be used when the signal is possible to be received correctly but 4G is not.

So it is not that 3G is worthless, it is that the phone only uses it automatically when the reception is very bad and 4G do not work.

If you instead force your phone to use 3G when there is a good signal it works fine. It is likely a lot faster than it was in the past for you because relatively few used is and there is a limited amount of bandwidth per cell.

I have no idea if you can force a iPhone to use 3G but for android it is possible,

On my phone, it “SIM card & mobile data”/click on one of the two sim cards/”Preferred network type” and not you can force it down to 3g/2g or just 2g

On my previous phone, it was under “addition network setting” in the main setting.
Exactly where it depends on the phone.

If you do that 3G works fine because you use it when the reception is good.

The extra speed with 4G and 5G is not primary to increase the speed to an individual user but to increase the amount of data all users in a single cell share. So the network does not slow down when many use it at the same time. If there only was a single user in a cell the bandwidth is enough for normal phone usage.

>or not at all.

Verizon turned 3G off completely last year, AT&T is planning to in February of 2022, and T-Mobile will turn off their 3G and Sprint’s old 3G around the same time.

The wikipedia article on 3G has a section saying that some providers in some countries are starting (in 2020/2021) to decommission 3G networks, with 2G becoming the backup connection for phone/text. This might be causing the issue you are seeing, you should check the article to see if that applies to you.

However as mentioned by Target880, the problem could be a lack of any connectivity whatsoever (and your phone probably doesn’t provide a detailed explanation of what is happening) rather than worse performance by the 3G network. You might be able to get an app which provides more detailed information. Also your provider or a regulator might have maps of the 3G/4G/5G coverage in your area to check what services you are supposed to be able to access.

Norway, for example, turned off 3G this year and will turn off 2G (Edge) in 2025 once legacy systems have had more time to transition to 4/5G.

Can somebody explain ELI5 what 3G, 4G and 5G exactly mean? Are these frequencies? Volume of data?

It’s funny how service providers claim they are bringing faster internet, using 5G now and I still barely get service out in the country. Like stop trying to improve “Speed” and improve COVERAGE.

Useless can be subjective. I still use iPhone 4s with 3G and my speeds are 6 megabits per second. Some people call that useless but for many people even in the developed world that is very useful.

Whether 3G is being decommissioned or not often depends on the locality. Often regions are designated specific licenses to operate some bands have most use for 3g wheras other bands have more than one mode being used.

For example, in many places in Ohio AT&T is authorized a certain chunk of the 800 MHz spectrum depending on the part of the state. My understanding is the way this is authorized in these parts doesn’t make it always easier for them to light up 4g on 800 MHz so it’s more economical to just keep 3g here consequently 3G is ok in many parts of Ohio.

Some frequencies used for 3G are better able to go over obstructions or go through them. As a result, whether a tower gets turned off or not can make a great deal of influence whether your service goes out. It’s possible your area was never that great for the used 3g frequencies by your carrier in your locale. So when they turned off a single tower then that ruins your service quality

two reasons

1) the places where the only internet available is 3g are also places with shiitty cellular reception generally. These are the places where they just havent bothered to upgrade.

2) apps in the 3g era were designed around the low bandwidth of 3g. Apps now are designed expecting 4g so to get them to load you have to wait forever in 3g

Here in the Philippines 3G signals are still functioning. And I actually prefer and lock my phone in it because it uses less battery compared to 4G.

Generally all “G” means is a particular frequency band the phone uses to communicate. Moving to higher G means higher frequency bands which can carry more data per second.

Companies won’t bother with lower G antennas since fewer and fewer phones will be using them

In recent years, when 3G towers needed to be fixed or maintained, they were updated to 4G/LTE towers. Now, they started taking down 3G towers.

Operators are going to stay with 2G for long-range with low bandwidth and 4-5G for short range with big bandwidth. 3G stands between those, so it loses its usefulness.